The Deadliest Mistake You Can Make Buying Cars From Japan

Ooh! “Deadliest” – that sounds scary. Sounds like being bitten by a cobra while fleeing a tiger, and then plunging over the Niagra Falls to boot. An unlikely scenario, niceasicminer to be sure, but when it happens, the consequences are dire.

Make this mistake when you are buying cars from Japan and you can be sure it’s going to kill your car importing business. Not just lay it low for a week with flu. No, I really mean kill it. Stone. Cold. Dead.

So what is this killer error and, even more critically, how can you avoid it? First of all, a few things that aren’t deadly, but which can leave you stressed with your bank account bleeding cash.

Everything you read here is based on real stories from people licking their wounds after painful experiences buying from car exporters in Japan. Learn from them, or pay the same price.

Poor communication

Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you want to keep your sanity then this is crucial. Think about it for a moment.

You send an email. You get no response. You send another email. Wait a day. Nothing. You look for your contact on Skype, but he’s never online. Finally you stay up until midnight and place an expensive international call to Japan – only to find you can’t understand half his broken English.

This is not a good place to be in when you have thousands – or tens of thousands – of dollars tied up in cars, or sitting in his bank account in Japan.

I would like to be able to tell you this is an unusual story, but unfortunately it isn’t.

Vague information

Remember you are buying a car that’s halfway around the world. It’s not like you can see it with your own eyes, or sit in it and run your hands over the steering wheel.

If your eyes cannot see and your hands cannot touch (and “buying by faith” isn’t your thing), then what you need is information. Cold, hard facts. Ideally, you want a third-party to give you an independent assessment of the car.

Once more, I hate to say it, but getting the information you need can be like getting blood from a stone. The worst place to be in is if you’re buying cars from an exporter’s stock. You’re totally at their mercy. They are both the seller and the person giving you advice. In fact, they’ve got a big incentive to keep their mouths shut about the very thing you really need to know – what’s wrong with the car!

You’re in a better place if you’re buying from . After all, the seller can’t write up the inspection report however he likes. If the inspector finds rust, that’s what he’ll write. If he finds engine noise, then that goes in the report too. The seller can whine and complain and beg him to leave all tha out, but the auction has their reputation to uphold.

The kicker is that this independent assessment of the car is going to be completely worthless to you in Japanese. You need a professional translation. And again, this is where a lot of exporters will let you down. Never accept anything less than a full, detailed translation with nothing glossed over. And if you’re not sure about anything, make sure you ask. A true professional will make sure you not only have the information you need, but also that you really understand what it means.

Slow shipping

As an exporter myself, this makes no sense to me. After all, the quicker I get you the car, the quicker you can turn it around, sell it and come back to me to buy more. It’s a win-win no-brainer in my book, but it seems that not all Japanese car exporters think like this.

Obviously, ships aren’t like buses – you don’t expect one to come along every ten minutes – but come on, taking months to even get a car on a ship? That’s ludicrous.

(And I don’t get me started on about cars being shipped to the wrong country and traveling the world before they got to where they should have been going in the first place. You’re the one who wants to go on the world cruise – not your car!)

But the deadliest mistake you can make?

If you look carefully, you can see clues scattered throughout the article already. It’s a common thread that separates the dubious from the good, and I can sum it up very simply:

Buying from someone you can’t TRUST

A Japanese car exporter you can trust…

… will always get back to you quickly.

… will give you the best information.

… will tell you which cars to avoid (not just which ones to get)

… will make sure you get your cars quickly.

… won’t hide it when something goes wrong, and will do their best to fix it.

In fact, a trustworthy supplier in Japan is always going to go out of their way to help you and your business.

So how are you going to make sure you’re not a victim?

Keys to finding a trustworthy Japanese car exporter

First of all, you’re going to be on safer ground with an exporter who sources cars from Japan’s car auctions. Buy from the auctions, and you always have the independent auction inspection report to fall back on. Buy from an exporter’s own stock, and you’ll just have to hope that he he thinks more highly of you (some guy he’s never met all those thousands of miles away) than he does of his own wallet. Sure, you may find he’s a saint, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

Next, make sure they’re a member of JUMVEA (Japan Used Motor Vehicle Exporters Association). It’s a low bar, but any company that can’t keep up its JUMVEA membership isn’t worth touching with a barge pole.

If possible, you want to find a company that has some sort of additional endorsement showing their business integrity. Integrity Exports, for example, is registered with Dun and Bradstreet, who have been assessing business risks for well over a century.

Finally, you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Make sure there are real (independently verified) testimonials to read, and see if you can speak to a real, live flesh-and-blood customer, if at all possible.


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